Explore Lisbon in 3 days Itinerary
By Helen Wright
This year, I was on a mission to go back to some of my favourite cities and revisit some of the best ways to explore them. Taking advantage of some brilliant flight deals, I booked a bargain break to explore Lisbon in 3 days, and it was fabulous. Lisbon is a beautiful city with so much to see, yet also the ideal setting to blissfully do nothing at the same time if a picture-perfect rest is just what you need. This Lisbon 3-days itinerary has a mix of joyful wandering around the medieval streets and soaking up the city’s relaxed vibe, with my pick of the best attractions to experience during Lisbon in 3 days.
Cover image: Erik Cooper.
I had 3 days in Lisbon with my two-year-old daughter, Isobel, and the city offers so much variety that mostly everything I wanted to do in my Lisbon itinerary was child-friendly enough to include her. One area I didn’t explore much this time was Lisbon’s fantastic nightlife (for obvious reasons), but luckily our popular Where to drink, dine and dance in Lisbon post already has that covered, so I took advantage of long, fruitful tourist days with early nights and had a terrific time rediscovering Lisbon in 3 days.
HOW TO explore Lisbon in 3 days
With flights to Lisbon just 2 hrs, 20 mins from the UK, we took an early flight from Stansted and were both bright and bushy-tailed arriving at Humberto Delgado Airport around 11:30am. This is my second time arriving in Lisbon with a little one and they have a fantastic family lane for passport control, meaning I breezed straight through with no waiting. I’m bringing Isobel every time, with this parent perk!
We took an Uber into the city which took 20 minutes and cost €11. My aim for this trip was to have a bargain break, so with flights £12 each way, I was also on the hunt for a budget-friendly hotel too. I lucked out by finding an excellent hotel in a great location. For only £45 a night, we had a modern, sleek room with a huge bed, plus a crib for Isobel and breakfast included.
I couldn’t have been happier or more impressed with our hotel and the staff were so friendly. We had planned to just leave our luggage but luckily, our room was ready so we were able to have a quick freshen up before heading out to start exploring.
For this trip we focused on a budget stay, but if you are looking for something more luxurious, take a look at our review of The Lumiares boutique hotel, which was fabulous.
Lisbon 3-days itinerary: Day one
Brunch in Lisbon
We had worked up a bit of an appetite, but luckily food is a big deal in Lisbon and brunch is very much on trend in Portugal’s capital. Within walking distance of our hotel was Manifest, a local bohemian café with an excellent menu and irresistible cocktails (yes it was 1pm and my lunch date was a toddler, but like I say the Porto Tonic was impossible to resist). Besides, I was firmly in holiday mode and a fruity beverage is the best way to celebrate.
After feasting on delicious potato and cheese mash waffles (€7) and chatting to some locals with their friendly dogs, we were ready to walk off lunch. Well, I was. Isobel napped in her buggy and I enjoyed a blissfully peaceful walk along the Avenida de Liberdade.
Avenida de Liberdade
This isn’t the type of area that would usually be top of my agenda when visiting a new city. This grand street is Lisbon’s answer to the Champs Elysees, with high-end shops, hotels and restaurants that I can’t afford. However, formally a park, the avenue is lined with trees and kiosk cafes with outdoor seating and beautiful Portuguese architecture, complete with traditional mosaic pathways and Lisbon’s classic painted tiles. It’s the perfect street for a wander and a glimpse at Libson’s well-heeled locals, and lead us down to Praça do Rossio for our next stop.
Praça do Rossio (OR, Rossio Square)
This square is situated in the city’s Baixa neighbourhood and home to some of Lisbon’s most famous restaurants and bars. It’s an unofficial central spot for the city, as from here you can see the São Jorge Castle, the rooftops of Barrio Alto and the harbour (just). Very popular with tourists, a lot of hotels are located in this area as well as a host of souvenir shops but one in particular is worth a visit.
O Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa
The Fantastic World of Portuguese Sardines (O Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa) is a ridiculous fairground-themed shop packed floor to ceiling with sardines. The rainbow tins represent a sort-of delicacy in Portugal, the humble sardine. Thanks to an abundance of this tasty little fish in surrounding waters and a questionable story about how St Anthony (the patron saint of, erm, matchmaking…) performed a sermon and all the sardines swam up for a listen, these salty little delights have become a cultural phenomenon in Lisbon. There is a whole festival dedicated to St Anthony and the sardines held in June every year, and one of the most popular times to visit.
If you are not there for the festival, you can still go for a peek in this crazy and colourful sardine shop and pick up some souvenirs to take home too. Isobel loved the fairground theming and I couldn’t get her to leave!
Try Pastel de Nata
Another celebrated snack in Portugal is the Pastel de Nata. These yummy custard tarts originated in Lisbon and were first created by monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Santa Maria de Belem during the 18th century. At the time, egg whites were used to starch nuns’ habits, leaving leftover yolks, which were going to waste. This saw the creation of the Pastéis de Nata, a sweet and flaky custard tart that melts in your mouth and can now be purchased around the world.
However, like any local delicacy, they taste better eaten at their birthplace, so head to Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata and sample some of the best on offer. The coffee is pretty good too!
Santa Justa Lift
Keep walking downhill and you’ll you spot the distinctive Santa Justa Lift. This is an amazing structure that was built in 1902 as a way to help people travel between upper and lower Lisbon. Known as the city of seven hills, you’ll soon realise that getting around the city has its ups and downs, but at least the Portuguese know how to make it fun. Now mainly used as a tourist attraction, the lift costs a spendy €5.50 return (up and down) or you can exit at the top and explore the heights of the Bairro Alto.
E28 Tram to Barrio Alto
However, I prefer to take the E28 Tram to Bairro Alto, a vintage streetcar that has been in operation since 1873. These iconic yellow trams are synonymous with Lisbon and help make the city even more charming and charismatic. Pick up the tram at the Praça do Comércio (be warned there may be a queue) and head uphill to Bairro Alto. If you have time, stay on all the way to the Campo de Ourique and come back down again to see a bit more of Lisbon’s picturesque districts. Tram rides cost €3 each way but you can buy a day ticket for €6.40. (This would be worth doing, as you can ride the tram later again to a top dinner spot for a 3 days in Lisbon itinerary).
Isobel and I loved riding the tram with the windows down and the wind in our hair. The E28 tram gets very busy during high season and in the middle of the day, but when we visited in February, the sun was shining and we had no problem getting a seat. It didn’t feel like public transport, but more like a tourist attraction in itself. So much fun!
Lisbon in 3 days itinerary
Explore the Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is best known for its party scene, where ‘barra’ hopping with a beer in one hand and a stranger in the other is commonplace. By night, this Bohemian hilltop district comes alive with the perfect mix of local charm and tourist energy. For the best tips to enjoy nightlife in Bairro Alto, head to our Drink, dine and dance in Lisbon post.
By day, Bairro Alto is an edgy, beautiful maze of cobbled streets, classic Lisbon architecture and cute cafes to stop for coffee or lunch. Find your way to Elevador da Bica, for a snapshot seen on many a Lisbon postcard. It’s the iconic Lisbon selfie spot, with candy colour houses stacked on the hill and the cheerful yellow funicular taking on the incline.
Lisbon’s secret foodie neighbourhood
Over recent years, Bairro Alto has become an unofficial culinary hotspot with tiny local places packed out every night (try Zé Verunca for traditional Alentejo cuisine) to cult restaurants from celebrated chefs (A Cervicheria is a favourite, but you can’t book so expect a queue and you won’t be disappointed).
The Lumi Rooftop at The Lumiares hotel is a classy spot for a cocktail and beautiful views over Lisbon’s terracotta rooftops. A seasonal menu designed by Ched Joao Silva is also served as you dine alfresco and take in the view.
Street art in Lisbon
The bohemian vibe of Bairro Alto also means a collection of interesting shops and boutiques. The colourful neighbourhood is also home to some Instagram-worthy street art, which is growing in popularity in Lisbon with council-dedicated spaces designed for artists to rotate their work. Once such place is alongside the Glória Funicular where sometimes the tram itself is given a (probably illegal) multi-coloured makeover , which makes a great photo backdrop.
Take in the view
If you’re more for the natural beauty of the city, being so high up (Bairro Alto translates to Upper District) there is a choice of great vistas too. Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara overlooks the river and the São Jorge castle and looks over the neighbourhood of Alfama below. You can pick up a sandwich and a drink at the kiosk and enjoy them from a bench with a view. Miradouro Santa Caterina is another of my favourite spots to grab a beer and watch the sunset, usually with live music from buskers that rock up and start rocking.
My favourite thing about Bairro Alto is getting lost in the winding streets and seeing what surprises I will come across along the way. Once you’re feeling peckish, head to one of Lisbon’s top foodie spots for dinner.
Lisbon in 3 days itinerary:
Dinner at the Time Out Market, Lisbon
The now world-famous Time Out Market Lisboa is a super-charged food hall located in the historic Mercado da Ribeira at Cais do Sodré. The glamorous food court was originally curated to feature a taste of the city’s most exclusive chefs and restaurants, such as Migeul Castro E Silva and Henrique Sá Pessoa who still remain, but has now evolved to feature a more diverse selection of local retailers and pop-ups.
The food court has a fantastic atmosphere and sometimes hosts live music and concerts. You can try some excellent food and wines at decent prices and it’s particular good for larger groups as you can grab a table and then everyone can choose what they want to eat. I found it excellent for dining with kids too as there was plenty of options for youngsters, but I got to eat some delicious food and ingredients without needing a fancy restaurant reservation and dedicating a whole evening to dining (which, if I didn’t have a two-year-old with me, I definitely would, of course!).
We sampled octopus stew and bacalhau with cream from Cozinha da Felicidade (which literally translates to Kitchen of Happiness) before sharing a massive Custard and Almond doughnut from trendy Crush Doughnuts. The best thing about the Time Out Market is that you can stretch out the night sampling food and drink, or have a quick bite and go.
Sufficiently full from a great day and delicious food, we were ready for bed before another day exploring.
Lisbon in 3 days itinerary
3 days in Lisbon: Day 2
It was only our second day in Lisbon and it already felt as though we’d done so much. I wanted to walk in the city and take in some of Portugal’s culture. Lisbon’s beautiful winding and cobbled streets are already pretty as a picture (or ‘for’ one, as Instagram will attest). It’s easy to be charmed by stone door arches and narrow streets adorned with hanging baskets and bunting, but don’t miss the small details, which reveal one of Portugal’s oldest art forms. As you stroll in the sun, look out for azulejos (hand-painted tiles) which decorate some of Lisbon’s oldest buildings.
Possibly the most famous native azulejos display can be found on Casa do Ferreira das Tabuletas in Chiado, which was built in 1864 and has an impressive façade, covered in painted tiles. But as you explore Lisbon, you will see smaller, less famous buildings with beautifully decorated walls (and sometimes floors). Many of the azulejos tiles in Lisbon were created at the Viúva Lamego factory, which has been in operation since 1849. You can still visit (and buy sample tiles) and the factory has a very impressive display of the ceramics itself.
Museu Nacional do Azulejo
To learn more, the Museu Nacional do Azulejo has a detailed history of the painted tiles, which date back as early as the 13th century and holds the biggest display of them in the world (entry €5 per adult)
From here, take a slow uphill walk (or a five minute Uber) to the Mercado de Santa Clara. This historic building houses the Center for Culinary Arts as well as small stores selling local artists’ work, crafts and antiques. There are few places to grab a bite if you feel peckish (try Focacciaingiro for small plates of Italian street food) and sit outside in the park with views of the Tagus river.
Lisbon is the perfect city to explore on foot, but the ‘city of seven hills’ certainly presents its uphill challenges. Luckily, Lisbon’s public transport is inexpensive, safe and very good for getting across the city quickly (Uber is also cheap, but traffic can sometimes back up). Buy a one-day pass for €6.45 and you can use it on all day on the Metro, trams and buses.
Into the heights of Graca
Next, head up to Graca. It’s a 12-minute walk or you can easily take the regular 734 bus to save your legs. From here, head around the corner to one of the nicest vistas across the city. Miradouro da Senhora do Monte (sometimes called Our Lady of the hill viewpoint) is the highest point in Lisbon, with panoramic views of São Jorge Castle, the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge over the river and Lisbon’s sea of terracotta rooftops. It’s miraculously never too overrun with tourists. Shaded by pine trees, this is a beautiful spot for a toasted sandwich and a beer from the little kiosk.
Isobel was quite taken by the choral music coming from the Nossa Senhora do Monte Chapel and took the opportunity to practice her dance moves on the church steps.
Board the E28 tram with less queues during 3 days in Lisbon
We loved rattling through the city on the E28 tram and, end of the line, Graca is a great place to board without too long a wait* (*we didn’t queue at all as we visited in February and it was very quiet). Here, you can ride the entire E28 route via Alfama, Baixa, Estrela and Graca to Campo Ourique. It’s a great way to get a look at the areas without any uphill climbs. In busy times, I definitely recommend doing the whole route first, then coming back down and hopping off where you want to explore. Just be aware that re-boarding in any of the popular tourist areas will likely mean a (sometimes lengthy) queue to get back on.
If you haven’t eaten yet, Mercado de Campo de Ourique at the end of the tram line, is a local market which has been operating since 1934. As well as fruit, veg, meat and fish for sale, there are some excellent food and wine vendors, including delicious steak sandwiches, fresh pasta and juicy burgers. A smaller, more intimate version of the Time Out Mercado, this is a fab place to come at night for a less touristy, more romantic vibe.
Jardim da Estrela / Guerra Junqueiro Garden
This beautiful park and gardens is a tropical hideaway hidden in the hills of Lisbon. Built in the 19th century, the setting was a favourite of Queen Maria II to take her children. Today, the open-air space (which also has a brilliant children’s playground and a huge duck pond) hosts film and music festivals, antiques fairs and Christmas markets. On a hot day, you will find local families having picnics or playing sports in the park and it’s a great place to escape the city if you want a bit more space and an afternoon of calm during your 3 days in Lisbon.
Opposite the park, take a look at Basílica da Estrela, one of the most ornate churches in Lisbon, with its beautiful twin bell towers and marble-carved walls. Entrance to the church is free and you can pay to go up into the dome (€5) for a fantastic view across Lisbon.
Check out charming Alfama
Take the tram down to Lisbon’s most beautiful neighbourhood, Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest and most picturesque area. Despite being extremely well trodden by tourists, Alfama still manages to have hidden streets, secret corners and areas where you won’t see a single person, perhaps other than an elderly lady hanging out her washing. You could spend an afternoon here, just strolling around the labyrinth of streets (although you may suddenly come across a steep hill, so be prepared!) There are little cafes and bars everywhere to grab a drink or sample petiscos – small plates of food to snack on, including grilled sardines on bread and local classic, caldo verde – sausage and vegetable soup.
Alfama is also a great place to shop for local souvenirs and handmade ceramics, with art and ceramic stores dotted all over the neighbourhood. By Nunes is a great, family-run store that makes colourful ceramic homewares and painted tiles that you can bring home to use as coasters. They also make fantastic gifts.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a delightful sun spot with views over the Tejo river and overlooking the new cruise terminal. It gets busy during peak times, but has a jovial atmosphere, usually with live music. When we were there, a crew of daredevil skateboarders were entertaining everyone by performing tricks and there was even a marriage proposal happening under the blossom tree.
There is a tram stop here, so hop on the E28 and ride down to the Praça do Comércio. The grand, open plaza looks over the water and was the former home of the Royal Palace, which was destroyed in 1755. From here, follow the water’s edge and pull up a chair, or a deckchair at Ribeiradas Naus Lisboa. This casual, alfresco bar is a sweet spot for a spectacular sunset (although the cocktails are a little on the pricey side).
Lisbon in 3 days itinerary
3 days in Libson: DAY THREE
Refuel at Dear Breakfast
Start the day off with a super-charged breakfast at cult foodie joint Dear Breakfast in Chiado. There are now three locations for this trendy café (the others are in Bica and Alfalma) but don’t be deceived by the name, they serve delicious eggs, pancakes and fantastic coffee until 8pm.
We opted for the amazing banana and pecan nut pancakes, but if you don’t have a sweet tooth, the Salmon Tartine is also perfect. A big brekkie is a must before a busy and active day exploring Belém during our Lisbon in 3 days itinerary.
Go west to Belém
As much as I love Lisbon, getting out of the city is also a great way to enjoy a trip to Portugal’s capital during a 3-day Lisbon itinerary. The west corner of Lisbon is a chilled-out spot that also happens to be the epicentre of Portuguese history. As well as being the birthplace of the Pasteis de Belém, the riverside district of Belém is also home to some of the city’s most popular museums and galleries.
Most guides recommend taking the number 15 tram to Belém from Praça da Figueira, but with a whole day to explore, take your time and go by riverboat. You can pick up the Lisboat at Cais do Sodré pier and for €20 you can hop-on-and-hop-off for 48 hours. You get an audio tour thrown in and the trip from Lisbon to Belém takes about 45 minutes.
However, escaping Lisbon’s hills, my favourite way to get to Belém is by bike. Bike rental company Bike a Wish in the city offer bike rentals with child seats. If you don’t have a little one with you, you can also rent a bike from one of three city cycle schemes in Lisbon, with the option of electric or classic bike (between €10 and €12 a day for rides of 45 minutes at a time).
Pedal to the metal, you can reach Belém from the city in 35 minutes, but part of the fun is taking a slow ride along the river, enjoying the sun, the views and the gentle breeze. The pretty waterfront is dotted with cute cafes serving classic sardines and chips, tomato salads and cold sangria at not-so-touristy prices.
Lisbon in 3 days itinerary:
Tourist attractions in Belém
For a chance to get your culture kick during 3 days in Lisbon, take a tour of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a stunning monastery that was first built in 1501. The building took over 100 years to complete, thanks to its very beautiful and elaborate designs, which nowadays feature prominently in Lisbon postcards and Instagram pictures with the Pont 25 de Abril in the background.
Another of Lisbon’s most iconic buildings, is the Unesco-protected Torre de Belém, a fortress that was built in the 16th century to protect the city. Beautiful from the outside, the Belém Tower can be a bit of a faff to go into, with long queues even in low season. The monastery is a better way to spend you time (and money), while admiring Torre de Belém from the outside ,with coffee and Pasteis de Belém.
The Portuguese Age of Discovery is another Lisbon landmark that you can’t miss as you cycle or wander along the waterside. Built in the 1960s, the monument celebrates important historical figures from the 15th and 16th centuries, including Henry the Navigator and Ferdinand Magellan, head of the first expedition around the world. For art lovers, The MAAT (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia) is also situated here.
Where to eat in Belém during 3 days in Lisbon
Belém has a lot of places to eat, but most of them are touristy places, happy to cater for the growing cruise cliental in Lisbon and charge them for the privilege. However, as well as the huts and cafes along the river, there are few little gems mixed in with the rip-off restaurants.
The excellent Taberna Dos Ferreiros has old-school vibes with a modern menu, including fresh takes on some classic Portuguese meals. Or, if you can manage the hill toward Ajuda, Restaurante Andorinhas is a local spot with excellently-priced and delicious Portuguese cuisine, such as seafood rice and octopus and bean stew, local wines and homemade cakes and puddings.
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We always aim to provide honest, tried-and-tested destination guides and Lisbon is a fantastic city. You will love it!
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